Beenapara is home to Abu Bashir, the alleged mastermind of last month’s Ahmedabad blasts. But away from the spotlight, this village has concerns like any other—bad roads, power cuts, no jobs…
Abu Salem was never their hero, but the 2,000-odd residents of Beenapara village in UP’s Azamgarh district have high regard for Abu Bashir. “First the police arrived in a fleet of cars and took away the most innocent farishta (angel) amongst us. Since then, the press has been coming but justice isn’t,” says a weeping Shakeera Begum, mother of Bashir, the alleged mastermind of the July 26 Ahmedabad blasts who was arrested last week. “Does the house look like that of a terrorist?” she asks, pointing to the seeping roofs of the two-room hut that’s situated at the end of the long kachca road in the village that has about 500 houses.
Other houses in the street, however, are in much better shape. Almost all of them have a television set and a two-wheeler. The cars sport registration numbers from Maharashtra—youngsters who have moved to Mumbai or the Gulf countries for work buy used cars for their parents in the village. Farida, who lives alone, says young men are leaving because “they fear they may be arrested for no reason.” “I have sent my son to his aunt’s house in Allahabad,” says Kausar, whose grandsons manage her teashop. “They go to the madrassa in the morning and help me here in the evenings,” she says.
Mohammad Shahid, a 50-year-old whose two sons live in Dubai, says there are hardly any job opportunities in the village. “We are peace-loving people who believe in educating our children and grooming them as true followers of Islam. Our religion does not allow any terrorist activities,” says his wife Amina.
Beenapara, which is part of the Saraimeer assembly constituency in Azamgarh, has been largely peaceful. The Yadavs and Dalits dominate—over 3 lakh each of the 1.3 million-strong electorate in Azamgarh—but Muslim too form a sizeable chunk (2.5 lakh are Muslims) of the population. But there has never been a riot here since Independence. “Curfew was imposed during the kar seva and after the Babri Masjid demolition as a precautionary measure,” Amina recollects.
Besides two intermediate colleges, the village even has a medical college. “We are proud of the Ibne-Seena Tibia Unani Medical College. A majority of the students come from outside and we have all the facilities,” says Shahid, a third-year student.
Students of Beenapara Inter College and Aiysha Siddique Girls College do not like the attention the village has been getting of late. “Bashir is a good human being and we want justice for him,” says Ariba, a student, as she prepares for Maulana Imam Bukhari’s rally. Her mother Shaheen says, “The last time the media came to Saraimeer was when Abu Salem was here for his mother’s funeral.” But Salem doesn’t seem to have too many sympathisers here.
“I don’t know why he is given such attention. We have no affection for him. Salem left the village after completing his inter college and never came back,” says Tariq Mian, an elderly man who is preparing for his namaz. “His elder brother Abu Hatim, or Chunchun miyan as we call him, still owns a shop here,” he says. Hatim, though, isn’t around. “He probably left because of the presence of the media,” says Riaz, a labourer. “He was rather upset with some media men when they pestered him on the issue of Salem deciding to contest from Mubarakpur, which is 50 km from Saraimeer. He wants to be left alone,” says Riaz.
But for now, the village has other worries too. Like the rains. The fields are flooded and so are the roads. For those dependent on farming, the monsoon has brought more worries. “If it continues to rain a lot, we fear our wheat and rice crops may be damaged,” says Khwaja, a farmer, as he sat waiting for the power supply to resume. “We face frequent power cuts. Why don’t you write about all this—the power cuts, the bumpy roads?” he asks.